Thursday, April 12, 2007

Champion of Justice

There's been this silver SUV parked in the apartment building's lot lately. The manager had told me there were painters coming and going for a while, but that was over with weeks ago. Yet the thing kept coming back like a fuel-inefficient bad penny. There's a bulletin board inside the building where the manager tacked a note stating that the MPD would be on the lookout for any cars parked in the lot without a permit, but that had no effect. I suspect the interloper was a friend of someone who lives here, or maybe just someone who hates to pay for parking. The SUV had no parking permit sticker, and tended to be right up along the row of signs reading 'FIRE ZONE' and 'NO PARKING ANY TIME.'

Except the other day, when I returned from my future wife's to find it parked in my spot.

I'm a generally easygoing and forgiving sort; in real life I don't usually get worked up as much as it might appear from reading my brain-spew here. But after I found a street spot and walked back home, I was ready to smack a bitch up, as they say. Or maybe slash some tires, or install some new after-market options. With a brick.

On further reflection, as a pending charge for vandalism isn't something that would help me much in PA school, I settled on the tamer, but by Minnesota standards still pretty aggressive, approach of "nasty note on the windshield." This, after the nice man at Gopher Towing explained that unless I was the apartment manager, I couldn't actually call them to yank a car out of the apartment's lot. At the moment, witty retorts about how Mark Yudof never needed to sign off on their fascist tactics all over the U of M campus circa 1996 did not occur to me. Alas.

So I fired up the printer, and created a flyer that proclaimed in big block letters that if this vehicle was seen in this lot one more time, towage would ensue. No fire lane, no stealing parking spots from residents. Grrraaah!

I walked my handiwork down, and slapped it under the SUV's windshield, hoping for an alarm to go off to draw the owner out, so I could confront the evil-doer in person. Again, alas. Then I went back up to my studio, which has a window overlooking the parking lot.

Ten minutes later, I noticed the offending silver SUV pulling in. It turns out my spot had been taken by yet another, unrelated silver SUV. This prompted a brief Homer Simpson moment. Then I rebounded, and threw my jacket around my shoulders as I picked up my keys and charged out the door. Vengeance would be mine!

I totally busted the guy in the SUV. Now that I looked at it, the thing was boxier than the one in my spot, and this was clearly our frequent visitor. He even pulled into his usual spot. I got the nastygram back from the new SUV, and assessed the situation. One guy, still in the car. I walked over to the driver's side, and he lowered the window suspiciously. I can't vouch for the expression on my face, but judging by the tone I heard in my own voice, it may have been the same hard-assed demeanor we use in the ED when our patience with belligerent drunks is juuuust about over, and physical and/or chemical restraint is one phone call away. The "I'm trying to help you, but you still have the power to mess it up for yourself" one.

I asked if the gentleman was planning to park there. I called him "sir." I explained that if the gentleman intended to wait in his vehicle -- I used the word "vehicle" like three times, god help me -- that would be no problem, but made it clear this was not a parking spot. This was a fire lane. Further, I explained, it's a problem for the people on this end of the lot who need to get in and out of their assigned spots, if anything is blocking their way. Finally, I told him about the sign that management had posted inside, and the looming threat of MPD intervention. I closed with the "it's your choice" tactic: do what you want, but you should know that if you leave this vehicle here, there's a chance it won't be here when you get back.

He nodded, and said "okay" a lot, and as I turned to go back to minding my own damn business, he asked "who are you, by the way?"

I did not say, "F%$@ you, is who I am." Nor did I say "somebody with a parking permit I paid for, asshat." If I had done either, it would have sounded awesome. Very David Mamet. I just shrugged, and said "I'm just somebody who lives here, and needs to get his car in and out of this lot sometimes."

By the time I got back upstairs, the SUV was gone. I didn't see when it happened, but a while later when I looked out the window, the other SUV was gone as well. I like to think the earth shook with Viking rage, just a little, and whomever had decided that my spot being empty all night and all morning was their invitation to use it had sensed in the air that they had overstayed their welcome.

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